Getting Corporate America to Support Fitness

Corporations need to be more creative than discounted gym memberships to entice employees

Yesterday, I participated in the Boston Globe's "Building a Better Commonwealth" event.  I was on a panel discussing nightlife, the restaurant scene, and recreation.  We were brainstorming ideas to help attract and keep people in Massachusetts. We hit on the topic of companies enticing employees with more than just discounted or free membership to a gym.   The facts are kinda dismal.  At any given time, only 15% of the local population has a membership to a gym.  Of that number, how many actually go?  (Trust me, it's a lot lower!)  Since it's likely that getting a discount to a local gym will just get a ho-hum or an eye roll from a potential employee, what can you do that's more dynamic? In-House Fitness. If a business has space to put in a gym that's great, but you can bring fitness in other ways too.  How about holding a health fair where people can get their blood pressure checked?  Or having a personal trainer come in for lunch to teach a bootcamp class outside?  You could start a running club, softball or basketball league; the possibilities go on and on and are all pretty inexpensive. Workplace Challenges. Create teams in the workplace and have people score fitness points to battle each other for prizes.  My husband's workplace, MIT, does this every year and it's a point of pride to be on the winning team. Tie Raises/Bonuses to Fitness. What better way to incentivize your employees than with cold hard cash?  It can be an add-on for those people who maintain healthy BMIs or a quarterly bonus for minutes of fitness logged.  There are lots of ways to measure this and it can be an opt-in program for employees, not mandatory. Cover Lots of Different Options.  Let your employees pick how they get fit.  I have several clients who can get reimbursements to a gym, but can't get reimbursements for my Pilates studio.  That's just silly.  Let your employees pick reputable but diverse options for fitness and cover them all with a predetermined dollar amount.  From yoga to tai chi, from ice skating lessons to covering a running club membership, let them choose how to spend your benefit. What do you think?  What does your employer do to support your healthy lifestyle?  What do you wish they would do?  Let's hear it; this is a great place to start a discussion. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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2 Responses to Getting Corporate America to Support Fitness

  1. markthetrigeek August 9, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I could write a book about this subject, if I was any good at that type of writing. Where or where to begin? Let’s start with Dilbert. A few weeks back the pointy haired boss, while reviewing a worker, said he wasn’t getting a raise because he spent time in the gym and not working. The guy freaked out and said you put the gym in. The final frame showed the boss talking to the evil HR dir and said, “the gym was the best money spent.” implying that building the gym cost less then giving out raises. Unfortunately I have found this to be true at nearly every place I have worked for.

    At one place we had flex time so I set up my lunch to be 1.5 hrs so I could workout and eat. It got brought up at my review even though I was still working the same or more hours then the ppl only taking shorter lunches “and getting right back to work.” But the bosses perception was long lunch meant less work.

    The next place was even better. The company was really making a push to get “everyone involved” in some form of fitness. We were encouraged to bike or walk to work, or to workout during lunch. So I started riding to work. It was around 23 miles so my daily totals were nice. The head of the dept found out and featured me on their website blah blah know the routine. Then the day came where the clouds were overcast so I had to leave after working only 8.5hrs. I told my boss I needed to leave due to the incoming weather. Luckily I only got caught for the last 30mins so it wasn’t that bad. The next day I was quietly pulled aside and told that I had to get my priorities right. They didn’t come out and actually say it but it was rather obvious. So I stopped riding to work. Then the economy started to wain and all the health projects quietly started to disappear.

    IMHO, most companies only pay lip service to health and well being and the few that do are rare. When it comes right down to it, the minute your fitness interferes with their desire to see additional output, the clash begins. As the economy continues to suffer workers will be expected to work more, put more time in, more over time, more mandatory lunch time meetings, etc, etc. When/if the economy improves, then maybe companies will be forced to give way in order to either keep or obtain new hires.

    I hope that didn’t sound bitter because it wasn’t, just presenting what I experienced in my 12 yrs as an Engineer. Now that I’m a teacher, I don’t have to worry anymore. ;-)

  2. Lisa Johnson August 9, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Mark well said and I had the exact same thing happen to me in your paragraph one. My boss installed a personal gym in the business for his workouts and said we were all invited to use it. I was psyched and started working out on lunch breaks (only 30 minutes or so) and after work hours. He glared at me three times when he wanted to work out and I was “in there.” I got the message and stopped. But I heard him bragging to a potential new hire that he put the gym in for “everyone to use.” He forgot to add as long as he didn’t see you.


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